I recently had the opportunity to visit both our adult children who live in Manhattan. Mark is 31. He’s a handsome, intelligent, involved young man. He’s the Managing Editor of a major art/fashion magazine targeted toward millennials. My younger child, Carly, is 28. She has risen quite quickly in the ranks of a technology company that was a start-up just 6 years ago and now has offices all over the U.S. and the world. I’m very proud of these two and happy they have done so well.
It had been 3 years since I had seen them. That was partly because of my surgery and subsequent recovery. They offered to come and see me after my surgery, but I wasn’t very mobile. And, I looked very skinny, weak, and old. So, I encouraged them not to come at that point. It also has a bit to do with the fact that New York City is not my favorite place to visit. I used to love cities when I was much younger. Now I’m more inclined to be near a beach somewhere.
But I really needed to see them. It would take too long to go into the reasons why I felt that way but if you’re a parent, you get it without the explanation. I arrived Saturday morning at my son’s townhouse in the Upper Eastside just a half a block from Central Park. Carly, who lives in the Greenwich Village area, joined us a couple of hours later.
Mark and I had texted a few days before the trip. I told him that I was excited to go for a run in Central Park. He replied, “Yes!”, so I assumed that meant he was up for it too. In my travels, I’ve always loved running in cities that I had visited. I have great memories of running from my hotel to the Sydney Opera house. When I was in England I stayed in Slough, an hour to the west of London. I ran along the River Thames and felt akin to something out of Shakespeare. Running through the North End of Boston past Paul Revere’s house was also very fun. So, I was not going to miss this opportunity to do some running in Central Park while I could see it from the steps to Mark’s home.
It was decided that we would go for this run later that day as Sunday’s forecast called for a little rain. He also wanted to go to the gym. I’m thinking, a run and “then” the gym. Ok, I didn’t have to work out. No problem. Mark had a business dinner that night so I would be visiting Carly’s place and we’d go to dinner. She left, and he and I changed for the run.
Before we walked out the door, I asked him how far he usually runs. He replied, “Oh, just a couple of miles, like 2. Not very far”. I’m thinking, perfect. I usually ran 3 miles so 2 would be a piece of cake. I did share that my miles were about 11 ½ minutes so he needed to slow it down for me. The last time he and I ran together was in Florida a few years ago. I couldn’t keep up with him at all. But this time might be a little different, I thought. I had been diligent in my workouts and he was on the other side of 30 now. We’ll see.
We hit the sidewalk with Central Park in site and began our jog almost immediately. When I run nowadays it takes me about a quarter-mile to get the joints greased up and my breathing in sync and at a steady pace. Then I can gain speed with no pain and generally have a satisfying run. I guess I’ve forgotten what a 30 something-year-old body can do because he leaped ahead with each stride like he was floating on air.
Mark was not an athlete in high school. He played Little League, and some soccer when he was younger. But in junior high, he got involved in theatre. And later in high school, modern dance was his passion. I remember one trip home from college when he needed to share something with Shirley and me. In tears, he apologized to me for not being an athlete. It seems he felt that he had deprived me of reliving my glory days as a high school athlete vicariously through him. I cried too because nothing could have been further from reality. I explained that he used to move me to tears when I saw him dance because it was so beautiful. My son was creating that beauty. And, not once had I felt that emotion while watching an athlete. That was my answer. I’m not sure it was the best answer, but it certainly was how I felt about his decision to dance.
So, here I am already some strides behind him thinking, “Uh, oh. I need to pick it up right now.” We crossed 5th Avenue without stopping because the light was with us. We ran north on the sidewalk dodging all the people walking 3 abreast. Central Park, as it turns out, was packed this day. It was a picture-perfect sunny fall afternoon. Tourists and New Yorkers alike were taking advantage.
By the time we had run just a couple of blocks, I realized that there was no way my 62-year old lungs and legs were going to be able to keep up with him. I also logically concluded that he had no idea what it was like to be 62, so he was just doing his 31-year old thing. When we got to a street where we had to wait for the light to turn, he stopped.
I was able to then catch up and somewhat catch my breath. But then quickly the walk signal turned in our favor and we were off again.
He bounded ahead once again, and I became Ok with it. I wasn’t going to have a coronary while running in Central Park because my ego got the better of me. After we turned west into the park, he got so far ahead that he finally stopped and waited. I always kept him in sight, but it seemed like he got 50 yards ahead of me in a matter of 30 seconds. I said, “Listen if you just want to keep running that’s ok. Just stop at a turn so I don’t lose you amongst the crowd.” He replied that he didn’t want to get separated. I exclaimed, “I know where you live”.
So, off we went once again. We were headed for the west side of the park. Up flights of stairs, cutting across small fields from one path to another, all the while dodging humans. The stairs part was certainly not what I was used to. I run on a path period. It’s flat for the most part with the occasional hill. Stairs are not present on my runs. But the toughest part was dodging people. Slow down to a near stop, wait for an opening. Then burst ahead quickly to avoid more oncoming people. That took a toll on my legs and lungs. Oh, and apparently going from the east side of the park to the west side is mostly uphill. Or maybe it’s visa-versa. When your brain gets deprived of oxygen, memory suffers.
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At one point on the way back, he stopped to wait for me. When I caught up, I asked him how far we had gone, and he said it was somewhat less than 2 miles. Really? Still less than 2 miles? Then we were off again. Up hills, up more stairs, down more stairs, cutting across fields and finally to 5th Avenue again on the east side. But remember, we’re going to the gym after. “Where’s your gym, Mark?”, I huffed. He said, “It’s past the Met up a few blocks to Lexington then down a few more to East 63rd. Luckily I’m good with geography and kind of knew what he was talking about. Sadly, we were talking another mile and a half, or so. His “few blocks” was around 15.
So off we went. This time though, we had lots of streets to cross and therefore crosswalks to stop at until the light changed. At a few, I was able to time it so I caught up just as the light changed to allow me to run past him and get a head start. I think that I sensed that we were coming to the end of the run, so I had some serious motivation. Maybe my endorphins were being released and the adrenaline was flowing. I’m not sure. All I knew is that I was doing a better job keeping up. We finally arrived at the Equinox gym on Lexington about a half a block south of East 63rd. Thank goodness. There was water and no more running. At the check-in desk, Mark showed me the App that he was using to track our mileage. We had run 3.55 miles! I haven’t run over 3 miles in a decade. OK, I just got stretched. I’m good with that.
The Equinox at this location has everything you could ever want including a spa and a pool. The weight room is extensive and there are dozens of treadmills and ellipticals for the members. Mark went off and did whatever he does. I had missed some workouts that week, so I focused on my back and was excited to be able to use some equipment that I don’t have at home.
We then met for some stretching and ended up taking a cab back to his place. All in all, it was a great experience. I ran with my kid through Central Park. And even though I was humbled because clearly, I could not keep up, I made it. I’m sure he had some sense of pride for his cancer-surviving, Social Security eligible Dad. I know I loved the experience and loved how athletic he truly is. Had his passion been for running maybe he would have made me cry doing that too.